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  • Writer's pictureA. Gulvin Translation

Pronunciation Pickles: the '-ed' sound

English pronunciation (let's face it, the word itself is a pain to pronounce), can provoke problems for even the most persistent of pupils. (And I think we'll stop alliterating at this point). In this post we'll look at the rules governing how to pronounce that annoying '-ed' sound that turns up so often at the end of English words. Most of the time this is found at the end of regular verbs in the past simple tense or past participle. Sometimes it's found at the end of adjectives.

The Rules

There are three ways in which the '-ed' sound can be pronounced depending on the sound (ignore the spelling, focus on the sound!) at the end of the verb.

1. /ɪd/ or /əd/ ("wanted")

The '-ed' is pronounced as an /ɪd/ or /əd/ (which makes it a separate syllable) with verbs that end in /d/ or /t/ sounds.

/d/ - to end - He ended the relationship with a text message. (What a loser!)
/t/ - to edit - I edited the film we made on holiday so it wasn't so long and boring for the visitors. (And for this, we are so very grateful!)

This is probably the easiest rule to remember as there are only two sounds to memorise.

2. /t/ ("hoped")

The '-ed' is pronounced as a /t/ with verbs that end in voiceless sounds (no noise from your vocal chords). These are /p/, /k/, /θ/, /f/, /s/,/ʃ/, and /tʃ/.

/p/ - to snap - "Leave me alone!" he snapped.
/k/ -  to walk - We walked, and walked, and walked, and we still weren't there yet so we decided to sit down and eat a Mars bar.
/θ/ - to froth - The milk frothed and bubbled as she poured it into the two mugs..
/f/ - to laugh - We laughed so hard we almost couldn't breathe.
/s/ - to hiss - The snake hissed violently and she jumped back out of the way.
/ʃ/ - to push - We were all waiting patiently in the long line and she walked right to the front and pushed in. (Never, ever to be done in Britain if you want to live to tell the tale...)
/tʃ/ - to preach - The sermon he preached at Church on Sunday was inspiring.

3. /d/ ("whistled")

The '-ed' is pronounced as a /d/ with verbs that end in voiced sounds (noise comes from your vocal chords). These are /b/, /g/, /ð/, /v/, /z/, /dʒ/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /r/, /l/, (or basically all the other sounds!) If you remember the other two rules, this is the 'and everything left over goes in this category' category :)

The Exceptions

There are many words which are particularly confusing in that we can use them as adjectives or verbs. Usually these adjectives follow the rules but, as always there are a few exceptions (sigh.) When used as an adjective the ending is pronounced /ɪd/, but when used as a verb, the rules above apply. These words are blessed, aged, dogged, and learned.

(adj) It was a blessed (/ˈble-sd/) morning, the birds were singing radiantly in the trees
(verb) I went to Church and the vicar blessed (/ˈble-st/) me

There are a few other adjectives that have the two-syllable /ɪd/ ending: crooked, naked, ragged, wicked, wretched. If you're an advanced English learner, you'll probably find that you know many of these words by now, but it can certainly be helpful to have a reference point when you come across a new and exciting verb! (What joy!) So, proceed from this place with pride, knowing you now have the power to pulverise even the most painful of pronouncements in English... See you next time!

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